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NBA Playoff Numbers for Game 3: The Raptors fall apart late

It was a good game for Toronto until it wasn’t.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

On a night when Kyle Lowry was out, a lot was going to have to go right for the Raptors to win Game 3 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. And a lot did, until it didn’t.

Stepping Up

Two players in particular stepped up in this one and played very well.

First and foremost, DeMar DeRozan had a fantastic scoring night. He totalled 37 points on 23 shots in 40 minutes, without turning the ball over once. His assist total was low, but with so many players missing shots, such is life. Just a great effort from him in this one.

The only other player with any notable performance was Jonas Valanciunas, who did well in the starting lineup, coming out strong with 8 points in the first 8 minutes of the 1st quarter. He would finish with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, 8 rebounds and finished a -5 on the night, far better than any other Toronto player with over 6 minutes played.

Missing in Action

Unfortunately, they did not get much help. On a night when Lowry was down, Cory Joseph needed to step up as a lead guard. And in spite of a very good defensive performance, Joseph’s offence was rough. He shot 2-for-12, including 0-for-4 from three point range.

No one else really stepped up either. Patrick Patterson was too passive all night, with zero shots to his name. Ibaka went 0-for-3 from long range and had some questionable shot selection all night. And Powell missed open look after open look — he ended 1-for-7 from three point range, and only 5-for-12 from inside the arc.

All that adds up to the Raptors going 2-for-18 from three. Not a winning formula.

Almost There, but Not Quite

And yet, with 3 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Raptors led the Cavaliers by a score of 70-69, in spite of terrible shooting from most of the team.

Then a series of very, very odd rotation choices were made. With DeRozan’s rest time coming up, presumably either at the end of the 3rd or start of the 4th, the Raptors made the decision to ride both DeRozan and Valanciunas for the duration of the 3rd quarter. The team petered out down the stretch of the quarter, with both scorers tired and the bench defenders doing a poor job of tracking Korver around screens. The Cavaliers would end the quarter up 2.

Then to start the 4th, the Raptors sent out a very odd lineup of Wright, Powell, Tucker, Patterson and Ibaka. You may notice there is not a single inside threat or even a real threat to score. After struggling for a couple of minutes, the Raptors substituted DeRozan and Joseph back in. Of course, they still had Tucker, Patterson, and Ibaka in — which has been an effective lineup, but with DeRozan gassed (the two minutes off were not enough) and Joseph ineffective, the team desperately needed more scoring. Instead, the team went 0-for-9 in a 5 minute stretch with that lineup as part of a 12-1 run for the Cavaliers. The game was over at that point.

You may notice the lack of the other notable good performer in the description of those offense-devoid minutes. Valanciunas sat on the bench until the run was over and the game with it (the Raptors were down 19 when he checked back in). His absence was odd — the Cavaliers were playing a lineup to start the 4th that consisted of neither Channing Frye (who Valanciunas has struggled to guard) nor Kyrie Irving (who targeted Valanciunas in pick and rolls all night, with varying success). It would seem an ideal lineup to play him against, especially when the team was so desperate for offence.

In any case, a close, intense game went from interesting to over in a span of six essentially scoreless minutes, highlighted by some very odd rotation choices. With the Raptors looking like they are folding here, this may be one of the last memories we have of this team as constructed — falling apart in the 4th quarter due to an injured Lowry, poor shooting, and odd substitution patterns, in spite of good performances from DeRozan and Valanciunas.